I keep thinking I won’t have anything to say, then… wham! A roundup appears!One Roundup Please.
I’m still writing about all the games I played this year but before I complete that, I thought it would be fun to write about something else. 2017 was full of games. The icing on the cake of this year was the number of gaming related surprises. Here were my favorites.
Super Mario Odyssey’s Little & Big Moments
Super Mario Odyssey was a true return to the adventure style Mario games of yore1. What made me love it was all the little touches, big moments, and set pieces in the game. Namely the New Donk City Festival and the finale after Mario defeats Bowser. If you’ve played the game, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you need to. Jump Up, Super Star! is this year’s break out tune.
Nintendo showed off a fancy JPEG of Metroid Prime 4 at E3 and everyone went bananas2.
What’s even more insane is Nintendo nonchalantly announced a new Metroid game in their livestream that was launching just a few months later. Metroid: Samus Returns is remake of Metroid II: The Return of Samus and I’ll post my thoughts on that game in my 2017 roundup. But the title is even more fitting; Samus has returned after a seven year hiatus.
Mega Man is BACK!
Speaking of another seven year hiatus – when Capcom announced a Mega Man 30th Anniversary livestream, most Mega Man fans didn’t get their hopes up. At most we hoped for a collection of all the Mega Man X games, or maybe the Mega Man Legacy collections on Nintendo Switch. We never imagined a new game would be announced or that it would be a continuation of the classic series with a modern art style. We got all of that. And they debuted it with this awesome history of Mega Man trailer. I am was and am so happy every time I think about this. Mega Man is back!
The SNES Classic featuring Star Fox 2
Star Fox 2 was a nearly complete game that was cancelled due to the then upcoming Nintendo 64. ROMs of this game have been floating around the Internet for years, and many of the ideas of Star Fox 2 eventually made it into future Star Fox games.
Nintendo had barely acknowledged the existence of this game for years. The existence of a SNES Classic wasn’t a surprise, as most were counting on the success of the NES Classic3 to lead to another retro console. But I remember when Nintendo announced the SNES Classic would feature Star Fox 2. I almost cried.
The announcement nearly fulfilled a prophecy I made regarding the next Nintendo retro console. I proclaimed for it to be an intriguing collectors item that Nintendo would release with a previously unreleased game, most likely one that was never localized. I was so close.
Bayonetta 3 Announced
I love Platinum Games. I love the Bayonetta series. I was excited to hear there was another game in development, and the other two games were coming to the Nintendo Switch as well. Bayonetta is practically a Nintendo series now.
Nintendo Taking Names
Nintendo killed it this year. A new fantastic console, a masterpiece launch title, a bevy of games, and defying expectations at large. Nintendo had two Game of the Year contenders this year between Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.
On top of this there was a surprising amount of third party support for the Switch. We got Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, a strategy game featuring the Rabbids from the Rayman Wii era. It was surprisingly good.
At the Game Awards, Nintendo had several titles nominated, including two games for Game of the Year. Nintendo used their presence to further hype. They debuted the second piece of DLC for Breath of the Wild with an elaborate display featuring Eiji Aonuma behind the screen pulling the Master Sword from its pedestal, which lead into a trailer. At the apparent end of the trailer, the sound of a revving engine could be heard, and then the screen dissolves into a cliff with Link riding a motorcycle4 followed by the words, “Available Tonight”. There was no information about this DLC pack until this moment in time. It was magical.
Nintendo seems to be defying all types of expectations, so it makes me wonder if 2018 can keep this momentum.
2018 Has Hype Expectation
With 2017 being full of games and surprises, it makes me wonder if 2018 will be as exciting. Who knows? Maybe VR will finally take off5.
- Yore was the year 1996. ↩
- Donkey Kong was surprisingly composed. ↩
- You know, if you could find one, and actually play it. ↩
- Aptly named the Master Cycle Zero. This is not Link’s first appearance on a motorcycle. He was featured in Mario Kart 8 on a motorcycle called the Master Cycle. In a Miiverse post (RIP) Anouma stated he wanted to see the Master Cycle in a future Zelda game. ↩
- HA! ↩
Nintendo has decided to discontinue the NES Classic Edition. Supply never met demand, often selling out on sites within 10-15 minutes. I really wanted to gift these out during Christmas. I thought it was a great toy, and a good trip down nostalgia lane for my gamer friends, and retired-gamer friends. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to nab one myself until February. It’s a solid little guy full of 30 great games. Nintendo surely will take note of this right?1 RIGHT?!
The sad part is Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch doesn’t even have a virtual console yet. Maybe Nintendo is working on a sequel? A newer version that has more games? One that can download additional games? A SNES Classic Edition? Probably not. The NES Classic Edition had a shorter shelf life than the Virtual Boy and that’s just sad.
- Nintendo listening to customers?! ↩
Games I enjoyed in 2016 in no particular order
2016 has been a good year for video games. It turns out I played more than I thought this year. I spent time in No Man’s Sky, but it didn’t make the list. It’s a pretty diverse list but here are my favorites of the year:
Super Mario Run (iOS)
We live in a different reality now, where Donald Trump is the president-elect and Nintendo is making games for non-Nintendo hardware. Super Mario Run is a great game and puts other mobile games to shame with the amount of polish this game has. (I wrote more about this in detail a bit ago.)
Videoball is a game I had followed for a while. It’s a single screen multiplayer game where players shoot balls into goals with triangles. It’s easy to pickup and start a game with newcomers even if they aren’t hardcore gamers. Shoot balls with triangles from your bigger triangle. It’s one of those easy to learn but hard to master games. “That sure was Videoball.”
Pokémon Go (iOS)
Pokémon Go has certainly been an experience, but is it really a game? It’s like a digital scavenger hunt everyone is playing. My fondest memory was playing it on vacation with four other grown adults. Our vacation spot was a veritable Galapagos Islands of Pokémon diversity. I am not super invested on Pokémon Go as some of my friends are/were, but I still open up the app from time to time.
I was pumped for a new DOOM1 since the first preview last year. When I booted up the game I found a first person shooter that threw all the “realism” (reloading, hiding behind cover, gritty story, etc.) right out the door. It is a throwback to older FPS games, but with modern sensibilities and level design. It also allows you to play the game how you want to play it. If you want story, there is one. If you want to explore, you can. Every encounter in this game is crafted and fun. If you stop moving, you’re dead. It makes for a frantic, ridiculous game that always gets my adrenaline pumping.
Overwatch is probably my favorite game this year. Another FPS, but one that is so polished and fun. It doesn’t matter if you want to play this game casually or competitively, it caters to all. As of writing this there are 24 distinct characters, both in play style and personality. The game promotes teamwork through almost every design choice. Matches end with everyone’s contributions, and it completely negates kill death ratios2 in lieu of how each player contributed to the match. Every interaction with players is a positive one. It is very much like Splatoon in that aspect. Since this is a Blizzard game, there is a whole universe built around this game. Surprisingly all the information about that universe is found outside of the game through short movies and comics. The minor detail of having characters speak things to each other before a match referencing their personal histories is such a small thing that has a huge impact on the world Blizzard has built. Even if you don’t play the game, watch the short below and see the amazing world Blizzard has built.
Jackbox Party Pack 3 & Drawful 2 (PS4)
Jackbox Games continues their realization of making interactive party games that are so much fun to play. The great thing about these games is that experience of other video games is not necessary to enjoy them, which makes them very approachable for everyone. Just use your mobile device as a controller. These games always produce such laughter and are much deeper than something like Cards Against Humanity.
Forza Horizon 3 (XBone)
I love these games. It is so expansive. Driving into a sunset , or off a cliff, or racing a train, it’s got something for everyone.
The Witness (PS4)
A fun puzzle exploration game that I’ve played with my wife. It almost feels like a modern Myst but better in almost every way. I need to finish this.
An adventure game focused on choices. It follows the story of five people on a trip to an island and then some spooky things happen. The best thing is how well the dialogue and dialogue trees flow into the game. It’s more about the journey than the destination.
Gone Home (PS4)
Another adventure game that tells an intimate story while you explore a spooky large house during a storm. There is more than meets the eye. I would recommend this to people who don’t play games often.
The third Nintendo mobile app should have been its first.
Super Mario Run is here! Finally! The one thing that no one wanted was Mario on the mobile phone1. We were wrong. After Miitomo launched and was unapologetically a classic Nintendo move2, we got Pokémon Go, which Nintendo benefitted from but wasn’t directly involved in. People loved it! Nintendo previously announced Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem games in 2015. But to our surprise, an announcement of Super Mario Run came at an Apple keynote presentation in September with Miyamoto himself on stage. A surprise indeed3.
Super Mario Run falls in line with a genre of similar games on mobile devices called “endless runners,” but Super Mario Run isn’t endless. There are obstacles and a goal. The only difference is Mario keeps moving. He’s on a mission and he’s not going to stop. Some have said the game doesn’t feel like a Mario game. This game is called Super Mario RUN after all4. Mario always feels different based on his venue. The first time he showed up on the Nintendo 64, it felt nothing like the Mario we were used to – but it wasn’t bad, it was great!
Super Mario Run is the first Mario game you can play with one hand. It makes it super accessible. It is also one of the largest reaching Mario games, as it was released in over 100 countries. It’s a new frontier for Nintendo to make software on non-Nintendo devices5.
This game is one of the most polished gaming experiences on a mobile phone, period. It has great level design6, a simple yet deep control mechanic, and all levels require skill and can be mastered without cheap hits or other lame mobile game mechanics. It’s simply one of the best games to come out on a mobile device since the iPhone debuted.
Super Mario Run does have flaws, however. The Toad Rally mode feels like grinding, and it has inconsistent difficulty with the opponents. The World Tour mode feels like a game though. A real game. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a Mario game and it’s fun.
I couldn’t write about this game without talking about the price. Nintendo is asking $10 for this game. Compared to other mobile games out there this may seem expensive, but mobile pricing for apps and games has been unsustainable for quite some time. I’ve had friends who have told me they were unwilling to pay $3 for an app they use everyday. But the fact is, developing and maintaining software or games is expensive. If you like something, support the developers with your wallet. Several great apps and companies have closed their doors because people were unwilling to sustain them, which hinders competition and allows for shit to flood your app stores. Most app stores have a refund policy now, so if you don’t like something, you can return it – just like real stores. It really disturbs me that everyone expects everything for free but will complain about what they get.
Nintendo is going about their pricing scheme the right way. They are presenting three levels of the game you can play without limits. If you like the game, you can pay $9.99 and unlock the full game forever. Nintendo is not presenting it with any micro-transactions. One and done. Try it out – if you want more you can pay, and if not, don’t. This seems to be hurting the success of the game, but I think it’s better than if you saw a $10 price tag for a game you couldn’t try. I don’t agree it’s a bait and switch even if it does show up in the “Free” category.
All and all it’s a good start for a new world for Nintendo, and I’ve had a ton of fun playing it. I think it’s fun for everyone and my friend explained it best:
I’m not a very strong video game player. This game is great for someone like me though, because the worlds are short and survivable, and the lives are essentially infinite. It takes the pressure off, a LOT.
Sidenote: I’ve also really enjoyed the marketing Nintendo has done for the game. See the two videos below:
- People were imagining a port Super Mario Bros. with touch screen buttons. Not a new experience. ↩
- Meaning that it didn’t make sense, and was kind of weird but kind of cool but only for a minute. ↩
- Nintendo and Apple working together! ↩
- I love the parkour moves and acrobatics Mario performs in this game. They are so fluidic. I hope they make their way into another Mario game someday. ↩
- Hard to imagine a few years ago. ↩
- A Nintendo standard. ↩
Open World? Try Open Universe
2016’s most anticipated (and harshest reacted to) game No Man’s Sky has been getting a lot of press. Some good, some bad. In my opinion, it’s making a lot of people think about what games are, could, and should be.
I was smitten when the original trailer for No Man’s Sky debuted at E3 2014.
It was a view at an optimistic space game. Not one focused on war or battle, but just exploration and the great unknown beyond. It almost echoes the mission of the Enterprise: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Pushing Boundaries But Not Enough
I’ve enjoyed my time in the Euclid Galaxy1 thus far. The game may be repetitive and have no real goals other than just looking around, but it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important. The game is very reminiscent of early Minecraft, other than it lacks any building mechanic. No Man’s Sky encourages you to see what’s in the next star system. Maybe something great lies there or maybe it will be horrible. Maybe I’m reading too much into the game as an allegory for life.
In my opinion, it’s undetermined if the $60 is worth the price of admission. Once you’ve invested several hours in the game, the late game doesn’t change very much. The early game is spent trying to expand the amount of things you can carry, but unfortunately when your character is able to carry many things, there isn’t any amazing thing you can do. But I can see coming back to this game and universe often in future years for a few hours at a time.
No Man’s Sky was made by a ridiculously small team. Indie game development and game development in general is a rocky path to success. So I’m happy they’ve charged a full game price for the game. This is more sustainable for them to continue working on the game. I want to see more of what this game could be, so I am choosing to invest in it now. It may be a completely different experience in a few years, or it may not. The developers have been a bit dodgy with questions on what can happen when you come across another character in the game, and I believe Sony falsely marketed the game as an AAA release. But as a person who invested in Mighty No. 9 before that game even came out, I can tell you No Man’s Sky is much more enjoyable than that dumpster fire.
Imagine The Potential
When I travel to each new planet or star system, it makes me imagine a new open galaxy Metroid game starring Samus as she travels from star system to star system searching for answers about the Chozo2 while being hunted by the Space Pirates. The concept of No Man’s Sky will hopefully push the envelope of what is possible for the future.
No Man’s Sky is the closest thing out there that can simulate stepping into a world from science fiction where anything can happen. And you may be the only person ever to experience such worlds based on probability3. It has generated some feels for me unlike anything else and accomplished its goal of being able to step into a cover of a 70s sci-fi novel. Coupled with its amazing atmospheric soundtrack, it makes me feel alone in this vast universe4, and truly does capitalize on the the premise of to boldly go where no man has gone before.
I’ve been trying my hand at pixel art. It’s easier for me than drawing, but it’s still pretty interesting with the restrictions present. It makes some of the games I love that much more beautiful knowing how much effort and talent went into designing them.
Let me know what you think.